The recent closure of Cherries, St Andrews’ oldest sandwich shop, has blighted the bustling South Street landscape. Hardly two months later, pedestrians will be delighted to see a replacement appear, one befitting this town favourite location. Founded by students – one current and one former – of St Andrews, CombiniCo will have no trouble attracting its own clientele. The shop describes itself as a Korean-Japanese ready-to-go food and beverage brand, a solution to the millennial desire for speed and quality.
A recent graduate, co-founder Alex Longson managed Lightbox Creative and participated in popular student business Soooshi. “When I was growing up, I would always make sushi with my family,” he recalls. Half Korean-Hawaiian, Alex describes the sushi rolls as a significant part of the menu, yet emphasises the variety of food that Combini will offer. Bini bowls, inspired by the photogenic poke bowls of Hawaii, will serve as an easily portable lunch, defining the “grab-it-and-go” ethos of the brand. Similarly, omusubi – a triangle-shaped rice sandwich filled with fresh toppings – will target students on their way to class.
“The Korean and Japanese approach to food is ‘slow prepared and fast served’,” explains co-founder Juno Lee, South Korean by birth and former resident of Tokyo. “It’s also very seasonal. This season, we’re planning to focus on fresh salmons – hot, smoked, raw. For us, it’s really important that we serve the best selections, based on the best way to keep our food healthy and fresh.”
In keeping with the Japanese style, aesthetic is valued at Combini. Every bowl and roll that the shop sells is Instagrammable to the highest degree. Pale pink salmons tumble across a bed of fresh seaweed and finely sliced avocado, served alongside brightly branded Japanese drinks upon gleaming white surfaces.
As evidenced by its sleek logo, Combini seeks to provide an experience that attracts a variety of senses – from
taste to sight to sound. Juno uses the phrase “lifestyle shopping,” in reference to the fashionable Japanese convenience stores from which Combini takes its inspiration. “It’s a kind of flexibility and convenience that we’re trying to create with our own twist,” he elaborates. “The retail shelf isn’t just for food and beverages. We want to offer everything that suits the local demographic – which in this case, is heavily populated by students.”
Aesthetic and authenticity aside, the price point is the final lure for the student demographic. Rolls are merely £4, with a sizeable omusubi tipping the scales at just under £3. The most expensive products, the bini bowls, are no more than £6. All meals can be enjoyed with a freshly brewed sample of Japanese and Korean teas for an additional 80p. Despite the low prices, Combini will not have a card minimum: “We only take card,” states Juno. “It’s more convenient, and it’s more transparent. We want the process to be as fast as possible.”
CombiniCo will officially open its doors at 11am on Saturday 17 February.